tv Hearing on Free Speech and Book Bans - Part 1 CSPAN May 10, 2022 4:24pm-4:47pm EDT
this to our 15 minute hearing -- 2 hour and 15 minute hearing. >> good morning and welcome to everyone for today's hybrid hearing. pursuant to house rules some people will be in person and others appearing on zoom. for members appearing rightly know you are familiar with. have your cameras turned on at all times, have your microphone muted. you can just unmute your mike and tell me.
we will begin the hearing in just a moment when they tell me they are ready to begin the livestream and hello to all of our wonderful witnesses that have joined us. this will be a really important hearing for america. good morning, thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us today. thank you to all the members per dissipating, we are in the middle of vote so there will be a little bit back-and-forth congressional style. i am very happy to be here with the wonderful ranking member of the subcommittee nancy mace. in 1943, in west virginia versus burnett, the supreme court struck down composed torry flag salute as a violation of the first member -- compulsive torry flag salutes as a violation of the first amendment.
-- other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess is order act of fate. the court affirmed that neither teacher nor student shed their first amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. in 1982, most relevant to our hearing today, board of pico, the supreme court rejected the effort by a school board in newark state to strip objectionable books from public school libraries. they members had gone to the members had gone to a conference promoting censorship of offensive and voter books,
and came back with the target hit list the top of his list which is familiar to us, including slaughterhouse five, by -- but short stories of -- go ask alice by an anonymous author, black boy by richard wright, and after widely brandishing a compilation of the most permanent and lorded and profane passages, the board actually overrode its own censorship committee, which had recommended purging only two books from the schools, and went ahead and censored nine of them. when the case made it to the supreme court, the majority sided with the students, who are claiming that the removal of books from the school library affected a form of political and ideological thought control, totally antithetical to the first amendment of the constitution. justice brandon, who had been nominated to the court by republican president eisenhower, announced the judgment in the court and delivered an opinion that was joined by justice john paul stevens, who had been nominated by president ford,
justice harry blackmon, who had been nominated to the court by president nixon, and justice thurgood marshall, who had been nominated to the court by president johnson. so this was a decision dominated by supreme court justices who had been nominated to the court by gop presidents, which is something that we need to think about because i hope, miss mace, that everything we talk about today will transcend the traditional party lines. in board of education versus peco, justice brandon found that the constitution protects not just the right to speak and to write, but the right to receive information and ideas. the first amendment plays the central role in affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas. freedom of inquiry, the court ruled, extends to school libraries. and the selective removal of books from school libraries, because someone considers the content offensive, directly and
sharply implicates free speech and thought in school libraries, the regime a voluntary inquiry holds sway. the answer to books whose content or viewpoints you oppose or even deplore, check out this powerful logic, is to not read them or to write a negative review, or even shades of walter here, to write your own book in answer. the first amendment, i used to tell my constitutional law students, is like abraham lincoln's golden apple of liberty. it's like an apple. and everybody just wants to take one bite out of it. somebody hits left wing speech, somebody hates right-wing speech, and wants to censor it, and somebody hates hate speech about gay people, and someone wants to censor speech about the love lives of gay people. and someone wants to censor mark twain's huckleberry fan because it uses the n-word, and someone else wants to censor -- and a racist baby because they think it means that babies can be racists. everybody wants to take just
one or two bites out of the apple, but if we allow all those bites, there's no apple left. the freedom of speech disappears. the way to save the apple for all of us is to learn to tolerate the speech you abhor as well as the speech you agree with. it's not always easy, but this is incumbent upon people living in a free, democratic society. if we cancel or sensor everything that people find offensive, nothing will be left. everybody is offended by something and that is why other people's level of offense cannot be the metric for defining whether you your rights or my rights are vaporize. there's a famous story about leni bruce -- risk a comedian from the middle of the last century. someone said, his show should be shut down because it offended him. and leni bruce said, from the stage, my parents came to america in order to be offensive and not to be thrown in jail for it. now, during national library week, a time to celebrate
intellectual curiosity, scholarship, freedom of inquiry, and free expression, basic intellectual freedoms are under attack again. in in 2021, the american 2021, the american library association's office for intellectual sees freedom recorded the highest numbers of censorial challenges to library books in his 20 years of tracking this data. 729 efforts to censor nearly 1600 books. and in texas just one of these attempts to censure books implemented by a straight legislator it has initiated the systematic review average least 850 pucks in every school district in the state. there are over 1000 school districts and 8000 public schools in the lone star state. this challenge will require tens of thousands of teachers, librarians administrators to spend hundreds of thousands of hours reviewing the books to implement a regime of censorship at a time when school resources are already
stretched thin in states across the country are facing teacher and staff shortages. the vast majority of books being targeted i'm not mandatory or part of the curriculum. they are books of choice children's can pull off the shelves if they want to and check them out or they can ignore them entirely. one books are being targeted? well, some old favorite targets are back like catcher in the wry, native son, huckleberry flynn. i would also -- let's see, there are also bunch of these books here, sea horse. we are going to see here today from the great ruby bridges, whose book ruby bridges has gone to school has been the target of censorship. ruth, the blue sky by tony morrison, who is a nobel prize winning author. it could's book about racism has been targeted for censorship. a book called hair love.
the infamous anti racist baby book. little legends, exceptional men in black history. and finally, little dreamers, visionary women around the world. so, these are some of the most common books that are being targeted right now. obviously it's a legitimate subject for parents, teachers principals, and schoolbooks, to discuss which works are the best and may most age-appropriate curricular choices for different age groups and great. this is what educators do. and the best ones include families, parents and experts in the decision-making process all across the country. but that normal curriculum and library selection process is completely different from whipping people up into a moral panic over the use of this or that worked or passage in a book, and then demanding its removal from the school library. fashions in censorship change. for a great deal of history, books were centered because they were considered indecent
or politically subversive. for example, the slavery system, like uncle tom's cabin, which was seized, censored and burns in many southern states as propaganda. many books are being targeted for censorship these days simply because they address racism, or white supremacy, as historical or sociological realities, or address human sexuality or lgbtq issues because the podcast protectionist or author is gay or a person of color, or some other allegedly objectionable reason. finally, not quite sure where this is, if you can give me this -- i wrote a book which was censored. cold we, distance -- forgive me, i correct myself. it has not been censored yet but it is being targeted for removal from the schools in texas. we, the students was amazingly sponsored by the supreme court's own historical society. it analyzes the constitutional freedoms of young people in public schools.
it looks at a whole bunch of cases that affect kids in public schools, like censorship of newspapers and your books and locker searches and drug testing. and i am certain now that it must be the first book ever sponsored by the supreme court's own historical society which is now being targeted for censorship. i only wish that the aspiring sensors which read my discussion of board of education versus pico a page 59 in my book before they sense it, it but for the it tells him everything they need to know about how it is illegitimate to strip books from school libraries because somebody disagrees with it. okay, so the books on the poster boards have all been targeted for tends to ship weren't actually banned from schools. this is your time by ruby bridges, a remarkable figure in the american civil rights movement who have we have the honor of hearing from today has been targeted and john for censorship. why? simply because it says a book
describing the story off a little girl who was one of the first to integrate public schools, in her native louisiana, in the midst of a racist backlash, may make white children feel uncomfortable. and this, i think, radically understate the powers of empathy, compassion and solidarity that all children, or most children, have and are capable of developing. it also suggests that the actual lived experiences of people should be suppressed if learning of their experiences would make other people uncomfortable, a farfetched, and workable and unjust principle that cuts against the fundamental american idea of free expression. all right. with that, i'm going to turn it over to miss meeks for your opening statement. >> thank you, mister chairman. i should've brought my book in, the company of men and women that this is the dow, this morning -- >> [inaudible] -- >> but thank you mr., chairman. i'm [inaudible]
freedom of speech in our country, as well as the important work to ensure that k-12 and curriculums in public schools several parents strains. what the first amendment of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech speech to all -- congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. the government may only set reasonable time, place and manner restrictions in very limited circumstances. the government cannot and should not police the speech of its citizens, even when that speech is disagreeable or repugnant. when they say it allowed, sometimes we want to know what they have to say. we don't punish that criminals in this country unless of course you are a [inaudible] character in or was 1984. freedom of speech isn't just a legal mandate in trying to our constitution, it's an essential element to democracy. this fundamental freedom ensures all views across the spectrum are debated within the marketplace of ideas, and public institutions of higher education are bound to abide by the first amendments prohibition on restrictions on freedom of speech, yet often in this country, we see attacks on
that very freedom. public universities and colleges frequently run afoul of the first amendment freedom by in forcing broad or overly broad speech codes or by chilling speech across college campuses, using by his response teams to investigate thought criminals. they have also been disturbing competes on these campuses to expel students, faculty, or disinvite speakers who hold views that are considered to go against progressive consensus or group think. he's universities and colleagues are unlawfully stifling speech to cuddle young adults at a time when their educational careers, in their educational careers, when they should be exposed to a variety of ideas and perspectives. while progressive activists shutdown speech on college campuses, are they are trying to hype exploiting children who are still learning to read, write, add and subtract, and i can personally remember a story when my kids were in elementary school and i was driving them home, picking them up from the cool pull at school that day, and they had a government lesson on, governor democracy
versus socialism versus communism. and i asked them, which one is best? and they said, socialism. so i pulled over on the closest exit off the interstate and had a conversation about the differences. and then they walked out of that conversation as no, mommy, democracy is the best form of government for the united states over america. in an effort to in davos indoctrinate irons, george's progressives are bringing to curricula with devices them radicalized ideologies, racial it's essential, isn't rachel scott gate, condo of a sexual nature that's not appropriate for young children. all children should be taught to academic skills they need to succeed along with the history of the country the -- good the, bad and the ugly. we must also teach our children about the problematic chapters in our history and we must also teach them about the heroes who lead us [inaudible] a more perfect union. and in fact one of those here's today's joining on here today, ruby bridges, who you mentioned earlier, it's a full rights icon and author who made history as a six-year-old girl,
courageously braving a hostile crowd to integrate and all right elementary school in louisiana. and in my home state of south carolina, we have so many of those heroic stories that should be taught in our schools from harriet tubman, who rescued 750 slaves in one night, in pure fort county, south carolina, to joseph p rainey, who was the first african american to represent any u.s. house of representatives, who represented, by the way, south carolina's first congressional district, the seat that i sit in today. public schools should exercise discretion with parental input and oversight to decide what is included in that curriculum and what books to include in the elaborate, especially for young elementary school students. but no child attending our public schools should be subject to government indoctrination or exposed to radical ideologies while they are still building the foundation of their education. instead we, ought to be teaching critical thinking stick skills so college age students can discern or [inaudible] on this violence when faced with open frank academic discourse.
and of course, a high school students, even if they aren't going to college, should be prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate. i thank all of the witnesses for appearing today. i'm looking forward to re-robust discussion of the first amendment, freedom of speech and how we can together work together to preserve that freedom for every single american. thank you, chairman raskin, and i yield back. >> thank you, myspace, for a very thoughtful opening statement. before i introduce our witnesses and swear them in, i just want to state that the pen america just released a report this morning finding that from july 1st of last year to march 31st of this year, there were 1586 bands that were implemented across 86 school districts in 26 different states. 41% of the band titled had protagonist who were prominent secondary characters of color, 22% directly address race and racism, and 33% explicitly address lgbtq issues. so though that's not a majority,
that's a lot of where the action is. and of course there are the traditional targets that we know of, like catcher in the wry and huckleberry finn and george orals 1984. and so on. now, i want to introduce our first panel of witnesses who are all high school students. and will be testifying, but not answering questions. first, we have shreya mehta, who is the student from richmond, washington. good morning! then we are going to hear from olivia pituch, who is a student from york county, pennsylvania. and finally we'll hear from christina ellis, who is also a student from your county, pa. then witnesses will be unmuted so we can swear them in. the stand and read your white hands if you can do that. do you swear and affirm that the testimony you are about to give us up to eight, ultrasound nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> [inaudible] >> let the record reflect that the witnesses have all answered in the affirmative. thank you. without objection your written statements will be made part of
the record. and with that, ms. mehta, you are now recognized for five minutes in testimony. >> thank you so much. hi, my name is shreya mehta and i [inaudible] high school, in public school in the eastern washington state. i want to start off by thanking the subcommittee for giving me the opportunity to testify today and [inaudible] in our country both as an organizer and as a [inaudible] . >> [inaudible] if you can speak, if you can speak, can you just speak directly into the camera on the microphone, as close as you can? because you're fading out a little bit. >> okay. okay. so, my district has had fewer outward book challenges but the interim no damages of the culture in the censorship of buck and algae bt q plus voices [inaudible] . i believe that the rampant censorship is affecting even more districts and then we think and supporting the mark pulling that marginalized students around the country
[inaudible] in my district have created a lot of fear so that entire [inaudible] diverse perspectives and plenty of new books that have [inaudible] been stopped in their tracks for no other reason than fear of retaliation. i've [inaudible] personally that educators have been coerced into putting away books on lgbtq lgbtq plus and racial [inaudible] content. marginalized students have unfortunately become pose collateral damage in this moral moral panic. just a week ago i went to a school meeting where a man spoke out against homosexual teachings and a woman spoke out about against gender equality books. and these are among the same adults who scream against bands but also his genders to this [inaudible] since the ship is in large part tied to a large part of polluting planning happening and often is [inaudible] racist, sexist or homophobic political statements that impede a students right to intellectual freedom and to
embrace a individual identities. i think students have the right to check out age or bomb appropriate rituals from libraries where there are not it continues contains materials that is divisive and [inaudible] and they need to know that they're not alone in their struggle and i keep on asking myself how [inaudible] how many decades will it take before we can raise a generation of lgbtq+ students in particular, who are institutionally guided in systemically educated to be as invisible and ashamed of themselves as possible. >> ms. mehta, forgive me i -- hate to interrupt you. miss bass and i just have to go vote we're going to freeze your clock right there at the half point halfway point. we'll be back as quickly as we can. we are going to drive over there, and that you can finish it, and then we'll go to our next witness. thanks everybody for him [inaudible] . >>